Cancer-Linked Genes Collected in Largest-Ever Database

Scientists at the National Cancer Institute have produced the largest database of cancer-related gene variations, a feat that will aid research efforts in developing medicines that target the disease more precisely.

The work generated six billion data points that tie hundreds of existing and experimental cancer medicines to gene variations that may be used to better understand drug response, the institute said today in a statement. The scientists sequenced DNA from the human genome across 60 different cell lines involved in nine types of cancer.

The data, to be available to any researcher, can help scientists understand the ways gene mutations determine response or resistance to treatment, the NCI said. By making the database public, the cancer research community will be better equipped to understand the genetic aberrations that allow tumors to form, said Yves Pommier, chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology at the Bethesda, Maryland-based NCI.

“This is the first time the whole exome, all the coding genes of cancer cells, have been sequenced from mutation in relation to drug connectivity,” Pommier said in a telephone interview.

The database contains 20,000 compounds that may one day be used to treat cancer, including all of the anti-cancer drugs already approved by the FDA, Pommier said in an interview about the data, which was published today in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Information collected from 60 isolated cell lines comprise what is known as the “NCI-60,” the source of the data released today. The NCI-60 panel contains information about cancer-related genetic variations in the breast, ovary, prostate, colon, lung, kidney, brain, blood and skin.

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